Monday, March 30, 2015


“Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer, in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing”.

--Helen Keller

After every tragedy that involves numerous casualties has been analyzed from every conceivable angle; after it has been Monday morning quarterbacked to death by the 24 hours news cycle, a mantra is born. It is always the same question, over and over again.  Whether it’s a school shooting or the crash of an airliner, the chant has become: How can we keep this exact circumstance from happening again?

The truth is; it is only possible in retrospect, for every decision to be circumspect.

The litigious society we live in now sees negligence at every turn, demanding that somehow, someone should have seen it coming.  Every tragedy is boiled down to a mere lack of vigilance, the implication being, if somehow we could “increase” our vigilance enough, fate would be assuaged and safety assured. 

Risk management is an oxymoron.

This is dangerous and superstitious thinking.  The scary truth is, we can't foresee or prevent every calamity, no matter how cautious, no matter how many rules, regulations and government security organizations we create.  Our anger and our pain drive us to demand that some “one” or some “thing” be held accountable. We demand action for the future, because in our arrogance we presume that it will tip the scales in our favor. 

In the end, no amount of dancing for lawyers will prevent heartbreak and catastrophe.

We could never fully account for the unintended consequences of every precaution we implement.

Newton’s third law explains this phenomenon better than superstition ever could.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. 

Terrorists busting down your cockpit doors? 

Make the doors stronger, unbreakable from the outside.

So unbreakable, that a suicidal co-pilot may now effectively lock a pilot out of the cockpit.

 No amount of desperate pounding on the now impenetrable doors will gain him entry in order to save the plane and the lives on board.

It’s an ever escalating arms race of impossible-to-anticipate circumstances. The airline will still be held to task about why they didn’t anticipate this scenario and plan accordingly. 

Perhaps if the doctors had reported his issues we’d all be safe now.  Why stop at pilots?  Why not bus drivers, truck drivers, taxi drivers, architects, construction workers, chefs, teachers, data entry clerks, train engineers, everyone who drives a car, doctors, nurses, lawyers… Why specifically call out pilots? Is it because of the high profile nature of the event?  On any given day, aren’t we all personally responsible for the safety and well being of others we encounter?
Do we believe there will now be an epidemic of this type of behavior in the future that we must act to prevent, or can we view this as the one off, terrible tragedy that it is?

Do we really want to give up all personal privacy to combat the off chance that someone, somewhere, will do something, stupid?

 Will it help?
It’s been said that we always fight the current war with the weapons and strategies of the previous war.  That is a testament to the concept that we cannot anticipate every scenario.  We can only plan for things we are familiar with.  For every strategy we devise, whether for the battle field or personal safety, there will always be a way to countermand it.

Whether we choose to admit it or not, we rely upon strangers every day of our lives.  Sadly, there seems to be an increasing number of people who do not concern themselves with how their behavior impacts others.  Narcissistic, me first, “selfie culture” seems to permeate everything. While this may be mostly benign, or harmless, there are some seriously disconnected, mentally ill people out there.  We want try to understand and be forgiving when someone commits suicide, but we are completely horrified and dismayed at the utter selfishness of taking innocent victims along for the ride.  Will greater societal restrictions impart greater empathy or a stronger moral compass in these people?  Will they rescue us from the depraved souls walking around the edge of acting out their maniacal fantasies?

Probably not.

Almost all of the school shootings in the past 20 years have involved psychotropically medicated, socially maladjusted boys, acting out in ways that, while there may have been “signs” that something was amiss, could not have been accurately predicted.  This doesn’t stop the media from pointing fingers in every direction and demanding to know why a tragedy was permitted to happen.  In the case of the Germanwings copilot, a doctor did eventually declare him unfit for work, but ultimately it was up to the pilot to obey the orders. 

He chose not to.

Regardless, living in a free society requires a peculiar type of faith. We are obligated to trust that the car coming towards us does not cross the double yellow line, whether due to negligent behavior, accident or malicious intent...that the bus driver doesn't drive the bus off a cliff, that the truck driver isn’t falling asleep at the wheel, that the person entering our medical information does not confuse us with someone else, that the food we eat is safe, that we get the right medication, or that the pilot flying our plane isn't suicidal that day. 

These heartbreaking instances, while rare, make us fully aware of our powerlessness, of our lack of control. The first knee jerk reaction is to reach for more control, more restrictions, and legislation.  If we were to be truly honest we would realize that more laws do not put us more in control, nor do they increase safety.

While it is important to learn from our mistakes, none of us may predict the future.

The problem is that no one in the public realm will admit this.

We have always had to rely on our fellow human beings to do the right thing. 

Human beings are flawed creatures and therein lies the problem.  
We demand perfection from imperfect beings. 


Ginger said...

Stacey, this is BRILLIANT! So very well stated. AND... I agree one hundred percent!

Daniel Greenfield said...

Few will want to admit it though because it requires them to surrender control.

Progressivism creates the illusion of omnipotence by promising that everything is fixable. It can only deny mortality for so long.

Ben said...

Brilliant and full of common sense. After the fact it's always easy to explain a chain of events, but it's difficult or even impossible to predict the next chain of events.

Even if we knew everything about every pilot to the extent we know now about the suicidal pilot, we wouldn't have a clue about what we might miss.

Digging into the intimate private lives of every pilot certainly is not an option and I, as a pilot, would feel extremely offended by such undertakings.

bill said...

Well put Stacey my friend!....I completely concur. As so aptly put from the folks at -

"Action will be taken to prevent the next disaster as soon as possible after it has occurred".

Actually a desire to do what is right can never and has never been legislated into a person's life...that kind of change can only come with a change from within, a change of the heart.

Laura said...

Very well said,I completely agree. However, I cannot help but wonder if things would be made easier if the media celebrated the 'failed attempts' at disasters that we or the authorities DID manage to prevent..all the people that were saved. Might make people believe more in the goodness of human nature, instead of despair at the lack of it.

stacey said...

Cell X, You are correct, but the media's goal is not to create calm, but to keep the populace constantly on edge, nervous, so that we seek safety and run to the arms of big brother to protect us.